November 4, 2006

Cold Creek, Clark Co., NV



The view in 1977 looking north, from above Cold Creek spring.


In 1977 when I was a junior in college I taught myself how to fly cast on an eight-and-a-half foot, seven-weight fly rod. I had read a book by Joe Brooks about western fly fishing. Brooks lived in Montana where the rivers and trout were large, real large. Brooks recommended the eight-and-a-half foot, seven-weight rod for the wide, open rivers of the west. I was just 20 years old, what did I know about anything? I reasoned if it was good enough for Brooks, it was good enough for me. So, I ordered my first Fenwick rod from a mail order catalog.

Wild horses making their way towards the dry pond.
I practiced casting on my lawn until I couldn't stand the dry-casting any longer. I then drove my 1968 Volkswagen Beetle to Cold Creek to see if I could catch one of its small trout. Kevin McGoohan and I had hiked the area often, and I had already seen the small trout dash for cover whenever we approached the creek. I began visualizing fishing “for real” in the absolute solitude of Cold Creek with my new seven-weight rod.

You fly anglers can imagine the sight of this young kid with his long, heavy seven-weight fly rod heaving large size 12 dry flies into the tiny creek barely a couple feet wide. Regardless of the silly image it conjures, those small, wild trout attacked with abandon whenever I was able to put the fly on that narrow strip of water. Unfortunately, my brawny strikes with the big-water fly rod sent the little six-inch trout soaring through the air like birds. I felt awfully stupid and quite guilty for the terror I put these small Nevada trout through with that heavy "Montana" fly rod.
Looking downstream, sentinel cottonwood to the right.
Five or six years later, after gaining sufficient knowledge to recognize the need to match the rod weight to the fish size, I built a six-foot, four-weight rod for another small creek located in Beaver Dam State Park. I decided to try it on Cold Creek; after all these years I thought it would be fun to see how those small trout played on that light tackle. So, I took Denise, Nick, Doug, and cousin Joe to Cold Creek with the idea of putting on a fly fishing display, sans the flying trout. But private owners had started developing the lots along the creek and had hired a security guard to keep out the rift-raft. I did my best to explain to the guard that I had fished Cold Creek just a few years ago, that I built the rod just for tiny creeks like this, and I swore I would not keep the fish but rather return them to the creek. He snorted back that the fish were gone, “washed out by a flood”. Of course I new that to be false, but I didn’t see the benefit in pursuing my argument. I left that day with such bitter feelings that I did not visit the area again for over twenty years. The experience fed into my youthful disdain for the Sagebrush Rebellion (was the result of the rebellion to be the loss of beautiful wild places to wealthy private interests?). 
Looking south, upstream, on Cold Creek.


Fast forward twenty years later when I accidentally learned about a pond that the Cold Creek development had created to assist with fire fighting (helicopters dip water buckets into the pond to carry water to the fire fight). It seems the Nevada Department of Wildlife was stocking the little pond (maybe a couple acres in surface area) with rainbow trout. For the last three fall seasons I’ve awaited the stocking of the pond so I could run up there, sometimes stealing away early from work, to fish for nine inch stocked rainbows. If I hit it just right I sometimes could catch ten fish in ninety minutes.

The first Saturday in November I decided to run up there early in the morning. I hadn't yet seen a stocking report, but I knew it had to be soon; besides, I could use the casting practice and a break from the city life. My plan was to leave the house at 7:00 am and be home by 11:00 am. With a sixty-minute round trip, the plan would afford three hours of fishing/casting.
Seven-inch rainbow on watercress.
This area is now a Mecca for ATV’ers who often drive their motor homes up for the weekend, and I had to negotiate through a small motor-home enclave on my way to the pond. Driving down I noticed a small herd of seven wild horses that was making its way to the pond, or so I thought. Upon arrival at the pond I discovered that the irrigation ditch had been blocked and the pond was dried up. All that remained were a few mud holes in which some small Koi fish were flopping around. All the trout were dead, as were a few perch or similar sunfish. As I walked the perimeter of the pond I discovered a dead horse caked in dry mud. Perhaps it got stuck while wallowing in the silty remnants of the pond. The whole site was quite sad. But, not wanting to waste an opportunity I pondered the idea of sneaking onto the private property containing the creek headwaters. The sense of revenge for that cranky old security guard came over me, as well as the thought of “sticking it to the man” (whoever he was). I decided to see if it was possible.

So at 8:00 am I found myself snaking through the private drive switchbacks as they traversed several arroyos. I parked alongside a utility shed just above the spring that fed the creek. I quickly descended into the bottom of the creek bed. I was glad to see that for the most part it remained unchanged from two decades ago (except for a park bench here and there along accessible shoreline). I was wearing rubber boots so crossing the creek was no problem. In doing so I spotted my first glimpse of a speeding mini-trout as it dashed for cover into the watercress beds. Watercress beds are a distinguishing characteristic of Cold Creek. I had heard that some folks collect it for use in salads.
Six-Inch rainbow parr fooled by a parachute Adams dry fly.
Enthused by that first trout sighting I quickly strung-up my little fly rod and on my third cast I was right into a little rainbow (seven inches). I quickly caught and released two other little trout as I worked just below the old cottonwood that used to stand as a sentinel over the watercress beds (it has since been reduced to a stubby stump as Cold Creek residents apparently tried to save it by sawing off dead limbs). As I worked another fifty feet downstream I came across a little pool that was obviously man made. Not wanting to be too obvious by fishing from the clearing lest I get thrown off the private property, I decided to continue casting downstream from the head of the pool. I was using a little size eighteen parachute dry fly and was finding success by floating the fly down to the trout. I quickly set the hook into another six or seven inch rainbow as the fly swung out after reaching full extension.

It was after five or so casts that I observed what appeared to be a larger fish working in the middle of the pool, and within two more casts I was able to set the hook on his strike. To my surprise it was a nine-inch rainbow, a huge trout for that little creek. Obviously, the man-made pool created a habitat that could support a larger fish.

As I understand trout, their maturity has more to do with age than size and so they often are able to gain reproductive maturity at a smaller size (seven or eight inches), if that is all their habitat will allow. All they need is a steady diet of aquatic insects and pebbly riffles in which they can construct their spawning redds for their eggs to grow in the rich, oxygenated water. Other than that, size doesn’t matter much. 
Nine-inch surprise rainbow from the larger pool, with parachute Adams dry.
I began to work back up the creek, getting into position for the shallow pool in the shadow of the sentinel cottonwood. Getting a little greedy and aggressive I was able to land three more little trout, and actually caught a little fingerling of three inches or so (a size eighteen fly is very small… I’ve caught minnow on flies that small before). I believe that fingerling was evidence that the trout are naturally reproducing in the creek, which is consistent with my observation from twenty-six years ago.

Unfortunately, working this pool exposed me to the dirt road at the head of the little canyon above the spring. Several cars drove by, and I assume at least one saw me. Just as I decided to give it up, I heard an ATV quad coming down into to creek. I assumed he was looking for me, but I had already started my assent out of the canyon through the willows and juniper. I admit I experienced some relief when I got into my truck before he came back up and sighted me. Maybe I was anxious, but I didn’t want a confrontation of any sort to ruin the wonderful ninety minutes I had fishing this little hundred-foot section of Cold Creek. But it was so delightfully nostalgic and genuinely enjoyable fishing (albeit for tiny trout on a tiny fly rod) that I doubt anyone’s harsh words would have ruined it for me.

Now the challenge will be, do I have the fortitude to not trespass again…
Large, deep man-made pool downstream from the cottonwoods.

Dried out Cold Creek pond, looking southwest towards Wheeler Pass.
Dead feral horse caked in mud near Cold Creek Pond.


Your wild Cold Creek rainbow trout.


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your fishing posts. I am from Boulder City and always looking for neat places to fish. If you don't mind me intruding on your spot (I fish alone always) could you tell me the best way to get to cold creek? Thanks.

FisherDad said...

Take US95 north toward Reno. You'll pass, in succession, turn offs for Kyle Canyon, Corn Creek, and Lee Canyon. As you descend towards Indian Springs you'll notice the High Desert Correctional Facility on your left. That marks the paved road to Cold Creek (St Highway 172). Drive that highway until the pavement ends... that's when you're in Cold Creek. Best of luck, and remember, the creek is on private land... be careful.

chan said...

Fisherdad,

I was fishing Cold Creek earlier today, as I posted a comment on another post of yours, but I wanted to ask you about the creek on this post. I saw that a creek, that looked to be originating from the two smaller ponds, was feeding the pond and was wondering if there is any fishable part of the creek that is not private land? I'd like to try some creek fishing but I don't think I'm as brave as you were in trying to mosey around private land.

I didn't drive into Cold Creek town but It looked like there may have been fishable creek before the town.

Thanks again,

Chan

FisherDad said...

Chan --

Cold Creek originates in the middle of the town. It's a spring that gushes out of a cave in the canyon. Today it is private property, and if they see you they'll escort you out. As I state in the above blog it is very fishable for the first couple hundred yards or so, but the trout are all stunted due to the limited habitat. It is not likely to be very fishable below the private property, but I admit it’s been thirty years since I tried that section of the creek. As I also noted above in the blog, someone made a small pool that seems to be able to support nine to ten inch trout, but it’s in the middle of town. It is a blast to fish that creek with a six-foot fly rod (anything larger than seven feet is too big for that tiny creek), but you have to be stealthy and go unseen.

As that creek passes through the last part of the private property a portion of it is diverted into an irrigation ditch. That ditch carries water to the two ponds you noticed (they have been there since the 1970’s). Then the ditch carries the water to the larger pond where they stock trout (that pond is relatively new).

There is another creek nearby called Willow Creek which I suspect still holds small trout, but as I recall it has very small openings between the dense willows (hence its name). I believe that creek is on public land and you could try “dapping” a fly with a longer rod. To find Willow Creek turn onto the dirt road as if you are going to drive to the Cold Creek pond but by-pass that road and continue for about a mile or so to the west and you’ll run into it.

If you really want to practice fishing a stream you should drive to Pine Valley Reservoir in Utah; you’ll have it practically all to yourself this time of year (http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Pine+Valley&state=UT&country=US&latitude=37.391102&longitude=-113.513298&geocode=CITY). You’ll need a one-day license for Utah which you can get on-line using the UDOW link I provide on the blog site. If you zoom into the MapQuest link I just provided using the “Aerial Map” option you will see the Pine Valley Reservoir and the creek that flows from it just “down and to the right” of the Pine Valley town. That little creek is a lot more fun to fish than Cold Creek and is just a 2-hour drive from Las Vegas... an easy day trip. And you will catch fish if you get the fly on the water; it’s a good place to learn the craft. Although I’d prefer a smaller rod, an eight-footer will work just fine. See this blog on Pine Valley for more incentive to go before it gets too cold: http://www.fisherdad.com/2006/11/pine-valley-ut.html.

I’ll post a reply on your other comment. All the best.

-- Mark

Alberto Hernandez said...

hey fisherdad fascinating stories you have to share with the world.Thanks to you I stumble into cold creek pond awesome place to practice fishing when you have it for yourself. I was wondering if you have ever fish the creek that is past the pond past all the houses up in cold creek, I belive its on wheeler pass road about 5 miles from the fire station?

FisherDad said...

Alberto –

Glad you find the blog useful; thanks for the comment.

There are two creeks that flow north from that NW section of the Spring Mountain: Cold Creek and Willow Creek. Willow Creek is the one you are referring to. Decades ago I did witness trout in Willow Creek but I’ve never fished for them. It is called “Willow” Creek for a reason, and I suspect the preferred method of fishing there would be dapping a fly or bait. The trout would be small if there are still present due to the limited habitat, much like Cold Creek up at the headwaters as this blog describes.

If you want an adventure try Carpenter Creek on the SW side of Mount Charleston (the Pahrump side). That creek holds Lahonton cutthroat, larger than the creek sections of Cold or Willow. Check out this link with cool photos on that creek: http://anglerslifelist.com/davin/trips/desert-lahontan-cutthroats.

All the best.

-- FisherDad